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How to Conduct Effective Safety Huddles

safety huddle

Safety huddles are a key tool for healthcare organizations to reduce patient harm, ensure accurate, consistent communication between staff, and promote patient and employee safety. Safety huddles can be defined as routine, brief meetings, usually at the beginning of the workday, comprised of staff from varying disciplines. (1)

The meeting is a time for care teams to discuss patient safety events, relay information about areas of safety concern such as short staffing, equipment or inventory, and to establish safety goals. (2)

Safety huddles allow teams to communicate effectively, share information, and identify concerns to improve safety efforts across the organization. Huddles have been shown to improve patient safety in a variety of areas such as falls, wrong-site surgery, and near misses. (3)

A study of a large acute care hospital showed that when four nursing units adopted regular safety huddles, there was a significant reduction in falls from 12.4 to just 5 falls per week. (2) The study also showed improvements in 23 out of 27 parameters of their culture survey. (2) These brief meetings have shown to improve the efficiency of information sharing, enhance a sense of accountability and empowerment of staff, and increase the sense of community across different departments and units. (4)

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact healthcare organizations, it is increasingly important for organizations to implement tools that foster effective communication and employee wellbeing to improve patient safety.

Key elements of conducting effective safety huddles include: 

1. Build the right team 

When building a safety huddle team, it is important to include employees from a variety of disciplines and roles. Multidisciplinary teams allow for a variety of perspectives, backgrounds, and roles to have a voice. This is critical for effective collaboration and for building effective solutions. Having a variety of disciplines and backgrounds involved in safety huddles gives participants a deeper understanding of what their colleagues across departments deal with on a daily basis. It also provides a larger, organization-wide vision and fosters a sense of connection between staff. (4)

Safety huddle teams typically include both frontline staff and a member of leadership. A well-rounded huddle will encourage front-line staff to voice their concerns directly to create an environment for open, engaging conversation geared towards improvement. 

This cross-hierarchical and multidisciplinary space ensures consistent, accurate communication throughout the organization and creates shared awareness about specific safety focuses.

2. Set a routine

To strengthen engagement and participation, consistency is key. The location, time, and agenda of safety huddles should remain the same daily. A routine agenda helps maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of the huddle. Huddle leaders should prepare any necessary updates and information for the meeting ahead of time and facilitate the meeting according to the agenda to maximize the use of time. Consistency improves attendance – a key component to making safety huddles successful – and allows everyone to come prepared, contribute, and collaborate towards useful takeaways. (2) An example safety huddle agenda is (3):

  1. Announcements
  2. Successes with patient safety yesterday
  3. Concerns with patient safety yesterday
  4. Safety risks for today’s patients
  5. Performance on patient safety measures
  6. Updates on organization-wide patient safety initiatives
3. Streamline with a technology solution 

Patient safety technology solutions are effective tools to streamline the process of conducting safety huddles. These tools allow huddle leaders to record notes, add follow-up action items, prepare relevant data and visualizations, and monitor successes. This ensures that all important points of information are recorded and easily accessible to team members.

The addition of digital tools also provides a centralized location to access safety huddle notes and information, as well as an automated method to distribute the safety information to team members. (2)

Implementing effective safety huddle programs not only drive patient safety improvements, but they also enable collective awareness of patient safety through collaboration and communication among care teams.

Performance Health Partners Solutions

Performance Health Partner’s Patient Safety Solution includes prevention, reporting, and post-event analysis to bring your organization closer to zero harm. Learn more at performancehealthus.com/patient-safety or request a demo here

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References:
1. http://www.wsha.org/wp-content/uploads/Worker-Safety_SafetyHuddleToolkit_3_27_15.pdf
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6465903/
3. https://psnet.ahrq.gov/primer/improving-patient-safety-and-team-communication-through-daily-huddles
4. https://qualitysafety.bmj.com/content/22/11/899

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